Polar Bear Watching in Canada

On the edge of Hudson Bay in Northern Canada, Churchill, Manitoba, is the world’s best-known spot for seeing polar bears. Every fall, the planet’s largest land carnivores line up on the shores, wait for pack ice to freeze over the water, and then pad out and go seal hunting to sustain themselves over winter. Here’s how to see the polar bears.

Where to Go
A town of 900 in the north Canadian wilderness, Churchill is known as the polar bear capital of the world. It’s surrounded by beautifully untouched land—think arctic tundra, boreal forest, and dark waters on the western shore of Hudson Bay. Most polar bear tours head out into the Churchill Wildlife Management Area’s 2.1 million acres (850,000 hectares). 

When to Go
There are chances to see polar bears here year-round, but it’s best to come in October or early November when thousands of the mammals migrate to the shores around Churchill. During the summer months, you may get to see the occasional polar bear on a tundra buggy tour.

How to Go
In specially designed tundra buggies, tours from Churchill take visitors up-close to polar bears in their natural habitat. If you’re lucky, the wild bears may even come right up to the vehicle. If you’re short on time, it’s possible to visit Churchill on a one-day tour from Winnipeg a thousand miles south. You’ll be flown out early morning, taken to the Churchill Wildlife Management Area in a tundra buggy, and transferred back to the airport for your return to the provincial capital. If you have a bit more time, join a 5-day Churchill guided tour. Multi-day options typically include two days out on the tundra looking for polar bears and other wildlife such as arctic foxes, hares, snowy owls, and ptarmigan. You can also visit the local Eskimo Museum and go dog sledding. It’s also possible to stay at a wilderness lodge built on the migration route of the polar bears.
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